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The Physicians Committee

Vegan Diets Help Fight Obesity
March 30, 2012

Is the obesity epidemic a cause for alarm? Not according to the meat, dairy, and snack-food industries. They want us complacent about obesity-inducing products.

But the facts are clear: Two-thirds of U.S. adults are overweight and at risk for diabetes, heart disease, and certain types of cancer. Medical costs associated with obesity are nearly $150 billion.

The causes are not hard to find. In 1909, the average American consumed less than 4 pounds of cheese in a year’s time. Today, that number is pushing 34 pounds. Typical cheeses are about 70 percent fat, and every last fat gram packs nine calories that no one needs. Over the same period, meat intake rose from 124 pounds to more than 200 pounds per person per year. Sugar is way up, too. We are eating way too much, and what we are eating is, in a word, junk.

That’s why PCRM launched the 21-Day Vegan Kickstart, which has offered advice and support to hundreds of thousand of people worldwide. And that’s why we conduct research studies and issue regular nutrition reports pointing out the dangers of unhealthful foods and the benefits of a plant-based diet. We also lobby for changes in federal food policy and litigate to force food marketers to come clean with the health effects of their products.

But many consumers still don’t understand the links between foods and health. We recently found that 39 percent of surveyed Americans had no idea where their colon is, and 70 percent did not know which foods increase the risk of colorectal cancer. And far too many are pursuing weight-loss efforts in exactly the wrong direction—trying to starve off the pounds or avoiding “carbs,” not realizing that populations eating the most “carbs”—rice, noodles, and starchy vegetables—are the thinnest and healthiest on the planet.

Our latest public outreach effort is a tongue-in-cheek TV commercial in which a fictional airline company offers passengers the chance to reserve the seat next to them for a slim vegan, leaving plenty of elbow room. The spot pokes a bit of fun at the airlines, passengers, and, yes, even vegans who are prone to offer unsolicited, albeit truthful, diatribes about the hazards of meat-eating.

The obesity epidemic is no joke, of course, and neither are the other devastating effects of a carnivorous diet. The disgusting conditions in which animals are raised and killed and the irreversible effects on the environment are enough to make any thinking person swear off a meat habit. But logic, science, and education only go so far. Sometimes people need to laugh in order to change.


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